Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day in Ouray

Ouray is called "The Switzerland of America." While its elevation is not that high (a little over 8,000'), it's ringed by very high mountains and is just a lovely setting for a town. It's rich in mining history, and is now fancied by tourists, cyclists, bikers, hikers, and climbers. It's at the northern terminus of the Million Dollar Highway - a twisting, climbing highway that runs from Durango to Silverton to Ouray.

Don and I have not been to Ouray before- we stayed in the Ouray KOA one night in 1991, but it's south of town and we never went into town. The last time I'd been there (without him) was in 1976, and I barely remember it; I'm sure it's changed a lot in 35 years.

The first thing we did was what we call "being tourists." We parked the truck at one end of the main street, and spent a couple hours walking up and back, stopping in whatever stores caught our fancy. We stopped for coffee at Mouse's Chocolate and Coffee, and walked out with a bag of their famous "Scrap Cookies." They take a bunch of cookie dough, probably a typical chocolate cookie recipe, and chop up all kinds of leftover scraps from the candy making. The cookies have anything and everything - dried fruit, chocolate, caramel, nuts, coconut, and bit of different fillings from the fancy chocolates. They are absolutely delicious - and it's quite fun being surprised at what you're going to get from each one.

Next we visited Box Canyon Falls. These are southwest of town, and drop several hundred feet through a fissure in the rocks caused by some major faulting.   After you pay your $5 entrance fee, you have two choices of trails:  the High Bridge Trail and the Falls Trail.  I always like to get the more difficult trail out of the way first, so we took the High Bridge Trail. First, you climb up a bunch of iron stairs, then a rocky trail that takes you several hundred feet above the falls and canyon.  

Looking upstream from near the High Bridge.

Looking northeast towards the town of Ouray from near the High Bridge.

The tunnel leads to a portion of the Ouray Perimeter Trail - a high-altitude hike that goes around the entire town.  You can't get back to the parking lot from here, so we didn't take it.

Instead, we hiked back down (I love going down!) and took the Falls Trail into the box canyon from which the falls are named.  You can't see the entire waterfall because it comes down a rock chute - but you can hear it thundering. 

The base of the falls.

Looking downstream from the base of the falls - see the old mining equipment up on the right?

This is looking straight up at the High Bridge.

Coming back up, we noticed this sign, so we started looking.  

Sure enough, not more than 10 feet from the trail was this nest with a large swift sitting on her eggs.

From Box Canyon Falls we drove over to the southeast side of town to check out Amphitheater Campground.  We discovered that it's really not for motor homes or trailers longer than 25' - though the camp host had gotten a large fifth wheel up there.  There's a narrow road that climbs the side of the mountain to get to it, so narrow that two vehicles would really have a large time passing each other without one having to stop and/or back up.  There are maybe 5-6 campsites that a trailer could fit into - and there was a sign leading to the main part of the campground stating "small cars only."  It's definitely a tents and pop-up campground.

We ate lunch under a large tree at a trailhead, and then went to see Cascade Falls. These are east of town  and accessible via a short (1/4 mile) walk.  

Right after Don took that picture, we turned to walk back down to the truck.  I was on a gently-sloping section of the trail and hit a patch of loose gravel. My right foot went out from under me, and all my weight landed on my left knee and hand.  There wasn't a lot of blood, but it sure does sting!

I'm currently at a Starbuck's in Montrose - I had to come pick up a prescription and decided to get caught up with internet stuff here since Starbuck's now has free WiFi.

1 comment:

Sondra said...

I passed thru Ouray once, but didnt stop to see the town..the hike looks great--sorry you hurt your knee hope it heals fast!!